Enlightenment! Thanks To The CBI.

A Crack Where The Light Gets In?

To be fair to the Confederation of British Industry, which is not necessarily an organisation concerned with social justice and enlightened pedagogy, this isn’t the first time the CBI has said in effect that our school system isn’t fit for purpose and it doesn’t equip young people with the ‘skills’ they need for life and for work.

Replace the work ‘skills’ with the word ‘intelligences’, and we have to agree entirely with the CBI’s views on this. Could this be the crack where the light gets in?

GCSEs not fit for purpose, says CBI

Leading business organisation warns qualification sat by pupils at 16 is not delivering key skills needed in the workplace

by Jeevan Vasagar, education editor


GCSEs encourage “teaching to the test” and may be past their sell-by date, according to Britain’s leading business organisation.

The Confederation of British Industry warns that the qualification is stopping teachers delivering an “inspirational classroom experience” and should be replaced as a measure in school league tables by the A-level.

John Cridland, the CBI director general, said industry faced a shortage of key skills, particularly in science and maths. The CBI, which represents more than 240,000 companies, is also concerned about the 40% of young people who fail to achieve the benchmark of five good GCSE passes including English and maths.

The proportion of pupils who reach this standard is the main measure of school success.

Speaking at the launch of a CBI inquiry into education, Cridland argued that abandoning GCSEs could help deliver a more rounded education.

“There’s something about this GCSE funnel which produces a prescribed form of learning which seems to be teaching for the test.

“It frustrates teachers because it stops them delivering that inspirational classroom experience, and you see young people being switched off.”

“It seems to me that we’ve raised the participation age to 18 and we’re left with an education system that focuses on 16,” said Cridland.

Many other countries do without a public exam at 16. Finland, the highest performing school system in Europe according to the OECD’s rankings, has just one public exam, at 18, though children are regularly tested at younger ages.

The CBI education inquiry, which will report back at the organisation’s annual conference in November, will also look at early years education. It is vital to tackle gaps in the system earlier, Cridland said. The inquiry will look at whether heads and teachers can be given greater freedom.

Cridland said: “We need to give school leaders more freedom to motivate, to recognise, to reward high performance, and deal with poor performance, and I would go further, we need to give teachers more freedom to teach. If you have an inspirational teacher why don’t we do what we do in business, back the guy or girl that you trust to deliver excellence rather than tell them how to do it.”

A Department for Education spokesman said: “Our reforms of GCSEs will break the constant treadmill of exams and retakes throughout students’ GCSE courses – school shouldn’t be a dreary trudge from one test to the next. We want students to achieve a real, lasting understanding and love of a subject.”

This, of course, is breathtaking hypocrisy. The spokesman for the Department  of Education should have said,

“We’re very sorry it’s taken us more than a century to realise that the system is merely a constant treadmill of exams and retakes, and a dreary trudge from one test to the next. We’re very sorry that our sole concern has been with exam and test results at the ages of 11 and 16, and with grading schools according to league tables of exam results. We’re very sorry we were so blinkered, ignorant and clueless – that we didn’t realise human beings have multiple intelligences, as well as a capacity for creativity and imagination. We’re very sorry we didn’t give a damn whether or not students achieve a real, lasting understanding and love of a subject, or a love of learning for its own sake. We are SO very sorry. If Michael Gove and our other political masters now want us to say we believe in children and young people having a broad and balanced education that develops all of their intelligences as well as their creativity and imagination and a love of learning, then we’re more than happy to say such things.”

Needless to say, 3Di looks forward to assisting in any way it can with the CBI’s enquiry into education.

Should we now start preparing for the Learning Revolution, or will the government continue to pander to the universities’ lobby that cares only for maintaining the status quo and an academic pyramid with the universities at the peak?

John Cridland

About 3D Eye

Gary Foskett and Clare Blackhall are educationalists, writers and consultants. We work with schools and other organisations who share our vision of how schools, businesses, etc should work in the 21st Century. We also run courses and contribute to conferences - speaking about our three dimensional model of intelligences and how schools, colleges and universities can develop the full potential of all their staff and students. We also offer consultancy for businesses and public sector organisations to support staff training and organisational change and development. For more detailed information read our blog at https://3diassociates.wordpress.com/ or see our website at www.3diassociates.com.
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